This weekend we’re going to have an answer to the question on everyone’s mind in Pittsburgh: where the f@&*%! is Wallace?
Mike Wallace will finally stop being a stubborn fool, and he’ll report to the Steelers and sign his one-year tender after Pittsburgh’s preseason game against Buffalo, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport echoed Bouchette’s report, saying that he spoke to several players who have been in contact with Wallace, and the receiver told them that he plans to join the team.
This isn’t surprising whatsoever, because the only logical reason for Wallace to sit out and not sign that $2.7 million fully guaranteed one-year contract was to avoid a training camp injury, although at times it seemed his holdout was continuing out of sheer misguided petulance. Since starters don’t typically play in the fourth and final preseason game, he won’t have to worry about tearing an essential part of his body during a non-essential game.
His presence immediately helps Ben Roethlisberger’s fantasy outlook, even if Wallace’s production could be hindered slightly by an uncertain backfield situation.
We fear, though, that while having Wallace around clearly benefits Big Ben, the headline above may not be true before long, or at the very least there will be little separation between Wallace and Antonio Brown in terms of production and targets. That’s not a good scenario, and it’s akin to the litany of backfield platoons we see growing like a vicious death plague throughout the league.
Overall Wallace’s 2011 numbers (1,193 receiving yards, eight TDs, 74.6 yards per game) were solid and pretty much on par with his 2010 output. But when we split apart the splits, we notice a tale of two seasons. One is a wistful fantasy, while the other is a like one of those Goosebump novels readily available at every neighborhood yard sale.
During the first half of last season, Wallace averaged exactly 100 receiving yards per game, a number that was then cut in half and dwindled to 49.1 over the next eight games. Your first reaction will surely be to cast that decline aside and blame Roethlisberger’s ankle injury. And sure, he wasn’t attempting to stretch the field nearly as much, and the Steelers’ passing offense as a whole struggled while the focus shifted to the ground game. But Brown wasn’t effected on nearly the same level as Wallace during the second half of the season. He still averaged 84.6 yards per game.
Jump on Wallace if you must, but do it knowing that a nearly even split with Brown is a possibility, and you’ll have to pay much more for Wallace (likely a mid to late third-round pick) than you will for Brown (a mid sixth rounder), with the difference in production potentially minimal.